A fairly low-key comedy, "Ghost Town" went through theaters without much of a reaction, grossing only about $14m during its brief run. It's too bad, as this attempt at comedy by director David Koepp (known more for his writing efforts on films like "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull", "Lost World: Jurassic Park" and other such blockbusters) is a slight, but very funny first comedic effort from the writer/director.
The film stars Ricky Gervais ("Extras") as Bertram Pincus, an unpleasant and snooty dentist in Manhattan. When Bertram goes in for a routine exam, things don't exactly go as planned and while he's brought back...well, he's "brought back" after several minutes. While he's initially unaware of what occured, the hospital eventually fills him in after he tries to press the issue. While he is physically okay, he soon finds out that there is an unusual side effect of what occured: he can see ghosts.
The crowd of ghosts that follow him around include Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a wealthy Manhattan resident who has recently passed and wants Bertram to stop his former wife, Gwen (Tea Leoni) from marrying a new man who Frank believes to be after the money Frank left her. This, despite the fact that Frank was cheating on his wife.
Despite that, Bertram agrees to try and break up Gwen and her new boyfriend, with Frank there the whole time, coaching him on. The results are fairly predictable, and Bertram finds himself warming up and being a little nicer when he's around Gwen. While she initially dislikes Bertrand, she also starts to find him appealing as the movie goes into the second half.
This isn't a hugely memorable movie - there's just not that much to it - but it certainly has its moments and positives. Gervais and Greg Kinnear are a surprisingly decent comedic duo, and the two play off one another wonderfully in their scenes together. Gervais is also perfect in the role, as some of the actor's better one-liners are delivered with expert comedic timing. Leoni also provides a good supporting effort and has nice chemistry with Gervais.
Overall, "Ghost Town" doesn't really do much with the other ghosts beyond Kinnear's character and the end result is a little predictable, but this was still a mostly entertaining effort that was better than the trailers would have indicated. This is an enjoyable leap into more comedic territory for Koepp, and I hope it will lead to more starring roles for Gervais.
VIDEO: The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the Blu-Ray edition is the clear winner between the two - offering noticeably improved clarity and detail - the DVD edition still offered an enjoyable viewing experience. Sharpness and definition were very good, as the presentation showed a pleasing amount of small object detail.
Colors looked bright and warm (especially the Fall colors of some of the trees), with spot-on saturation and no concerns. Flesh tones also looked natural, while black level remained solid. Only a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement were seen. Overall, this was a solid effort from Paramount.
SOUND: The film is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio option. While the video quality was very good, audio quality was more in-line with expectations, given the material. Surrounds are hardly employed at all throughout the running time, only coming to life for the occasional instance of ambiance during the outdoor scenes and a few other, minor details. Audio quality was above-average, with clear, natural-sounding dialogue.
EXTRAS: Director/co-writer David Koepp and actor Ricky Gervais offer an audio commentary for the movie. The commentary is a good blend of fun and insight, as the two have a good time chatting about the stories from the set and Gervais offers a series of dryly amusing jokes. Still, despite all the laughs, the two also do manage to share a good deal of information on filming on location in NYC, working with the other actors and more.
"Making Ghost Town" is a 22-minute featurette that I felt was a little on the promotional side, going through the normal discussions of the story, the production and the actors. A fair amount of clips are also spread through the running time. While a few good tidbits and stories emerge during this piece, I thought it was average as these sorts of featurettes go. "Ghostly Effects" is a short look at some of the effects work, while "Some People Can Do It" is a lengthy look at Gervais cracking up during some takes.
Final Thoughts: While I didn't think the trailers looked all that promising, "Ghost Town" turned out to be a sweet, funny film with a trio of good performances from Gervais, Kinnear and Leoni. The DVD edition has very good video quality, fine audio quality and a few extras. Rent it.
The Film B-